The Proper Role of Economic Goods in Effecting National Reconciliation: Comparing Colombia and South Africa

In David Bilchitz & Raisa Cachalia (eds.), Transitional and Distributive Justice in Transformative Constitutionalism: Comparing Colombia and South Africa (forthcoming)

Thaddeus Metz
University of Pretoria
Scholars have compared the transitional justice processes of Colombia and South Africa in some respects, but there has yet to be a systematic moral-philosophical evaluation of them and specifically regarding the way they have sought to allocate economic goods. In this essay, I appraise the ways that South Africa and of Colombia have responded to their respective historical conflicts in respect of the distribution of property, especially land and money, and opportunities such as access to education and job training. I do so in the light of a certain conception of national reconciliation that is informed by an ethic of harmonious relationship, a value salient in the worldviews of many indigenous peoples in both sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. By this conception, national reconciliation of an attractive sort is largely a matter of cooperative participation in projects expected to benefit formerly conflicting parties in combination with the disavowal of respects in which parties had flouted the value of harmony in the past. I argue that, given this plausible account of reconciliation, one of Colombia’s major proposed ways of allocating property and opportunities, whereby offenders would labour for the sake of victims, would be much better than what South Africa has done, even if Colombia has yet to put its economic policy systematically into practice.
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